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Today's Opinions

  • Giving voices to the voiceless, the mentally ill tell their stories

    If you’re mentally ill or addicted, getting help means getting in to see your CSW, your community support worker. Your CSW understands you, understands your history, knows which medications have or haven’t worked. If you can’t see your CSW, it’s like being in your own sci-fi movie where you’re untethered in deep space.
    And if you even have a CSW, you’re one of the lucky ones.
    This is a little of the cold reality of what we like to call our behavioral health system after the state’s 2013 suspension of funding to 15 providers after accusing them of fraud. They provided 87 percent of services for the seriously mentally ill, substance abusers and emotionally disturbed children. They had served their communities for an average of 37 years.
    From news accounts we have an arsenal of smoking guns: Audits supporting the state Human Services Department’s accusations were doctored, the substitute Arizona providers were lined up BEFORE the audits, managed-care company UnitedHealth Group steered HSD to its conclusions and donated to the state Republican Party, the Attorney General cleared 13 of 15 providers of fraud, and a departing Arizona firm sued UnitedHealth saying its subsidiary OptumHealth accused the New Mexico providers of fraud to mask its inability to pay them.

  • Fewer work here: proportion of employed New Mexicans is 48th

    One number and one question.
    Those are where the New Mexico economic discussion goes.
    The number is the ratio of employment to population. The question is why we are so low.
    A second number lends insight. That is the percentage of our population on Medicaid, which is approaching 50 percent. That half our population needs a form of welfare is astonishing, but the situation goes back to work. If more people were working for more money, there would be less Medicaid.
    Employment occupied 53.5 percent of the population in 2015. Our average employment ratio for 2014 was 56.6 percent, a decline from 2013. The definition is what you would expect. The Pew Research Center defines the ratio of employment to population as “a measurement of employed people as a percentage of the entire adult civilian non-institutional population” 16 and over. Nationally the ratio is 59.8 for February and has been nudging fitfully up since mid-2011.
    For employment-to-population, we placed 48th nationally, our usual position. Two of the other states in the bottom four—West Virginia and Kentucky—have coal as a simple explanation for their troubles. Check with Barack Obama on that issue. Mississippi’s explanations appear more complicated, although, from what I have read, racial legacies are a big part.

  • Finally, a new workers’ comp drug and alcohol law

    Warning to everybody who goes to work: New Mexico finally has a workers’ compensation drug and alcohol law that almost makes sense. If you are irresponsible enough to drink or use drugs at work, or before work, or you are an employer who allows that sort of behavior, it’s time to shape up.
    WORKERS: If you get injured at work, do not refuse to take a drug test. If the test shows you were drunk or stoned, your workers’ compensation cash benefits will be reduced. If you refuse to take the test, you’ll get no money.
    EMPLOYERS:  If you do not have a drug-and-alcohol-free workplace policy, you need one. The law takes effect July 1, but don’t wait to do this. Model policies are available online, or contact your insurance carrier (contact information should be in a poster on your wall that you should have put there). You can also check with the New Mexico DWI Resource Center (dwiresourcecenter.org).

  • Padilla transcends checklists at Democrats’ pre-primary convention

    Boos for the state chairwoman and bunches of Bernie babies with signs, cigarettes and slot machines. All appeared at the Democratic Party pre-primary convention March 12.
    For their pre-primary convention, Democrats needed a bigger room than Republicans. Around 1,200 people attended the Democratic show at Isleta Casino. The Republican convention drew about 500. For the Democrats’ meeting, people came and went, nametag or not. The Republicans had people at the entrances, looking for nametags. No nametag, no entry.
    Draw your own conclusions about inclusiveness.
    The cigarettes and slot machines came with the location – the “Bingo Showroom” at Isleta Resort and Casino south of Albuquerque. The cigarettes and slot machines were next door in the casino. As the program got a little tedious – no criticism, such events get tedious – conventioneers drifted to the casino and the slots.
    With no contested races, Chairwoman Debra Haaland observed that the purpose of the convention became making new acquaintances and renewing old acquaintances.
    Haaland began her remarks by saying, “I want to talk today about the need for unity in our party.”

  • Letter to the editor 3-23-16

    Looking for New Mexico information

    Dear people of the great state of New Mexico:
    Hello! I am a fourth grade student in North Carolina. In fourth grade, we do state reports and I have chosen your state! I am very excited to learn about the great state of New Mexico as I work on my report.
    Most of the information that we get for our reports will be from books and web sites. We also like to get information from people who live in the state, too. This is why I am writing to you. I was hoping that you would be willing to send me some items to help me learn more about the best things in your state. It could be things like postcards, maps, pictures, souvenirs, general information, this newspaper article, or any other items that would be useful. You can mail items to the address below. I really appreciate your help!
    Jimmy Maple
    Mrs. Hughey’s Class
    Charlotte Latin School
    9502 Providence Road
    Charlotte, NC  28277

  • Agriculture is alive and well in New Mexico

    New Mexico ag secretary: Let’s appreciate what farmers, ranchers put on our plates – and into our communities
    Milk, beef, chile, pecans…Cheese, lettuce, spinach, grapes…Alfalfa, cotton, corn, onions and more – what’s not to get excited about as spring approaches? Agriculture is alive and well in New Mexico, and the food and crops mentioned here are just a sample of the diverse culture of production that makes New Mexico special.
    On Tuesday, we celebrated National Agriculture Day across America. In New Mexico, I’m asking you to stretch the occasion out for the full week. Ag Day/Week asks us to recognize the important contributions farmers and ranchers make to our dinner plates and local communities. The food on your plate doesn’t just happen. After many months of care and nurturing by people who truly care about our health and safety, the crops grown become our breakfast, lunch, and dinner (and don’t forget snacks). Additionally, our communities thrive from the stable economic impact of agricultural production, as well as the green space it creates.

  • Partisan, line-item vetoes deliver a confused message

    Last week, the governor’s biases were on display as she released the state’s annual pork bill and communities learned which of their public projects will receive capital outlay dollars.
    In a multitude of line-item vetoes, she came down hard on Navajos, Democrats, courts, and acequia associations.
    The governor chastised legislators in a nine-page message for squandering infrastructure funding and spending on local public works. She said some projects were underfunded or unwanted by local governments, and some spending was for items that will wear out before the bond is paid off. And legislators aren’t always working together, she said.
    No argument there, but she also vetoed any request for $10,000 or less, saying it’s not enough to accomplish anything. That’s pretty arbitrary. Some small projects can cost that amount or less.
    The big problem is that many of her vetoes are inconsistent, or they don’t align with her written message.
    Zuni Pueblo has no backup pump on its main well. Three legislators pooled their capital outlay money to buy and install a pump ($190,000), which was vetoed while dozens of other well projects around the state were approved.

  • 2016-17 school budget will require difficult choices

    BY JIM HALL
    President, Los Alamos School Board